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Online travel companies are finally putting real money into tours and activities — on TV.
Booking.com has spent $39.9 million dollars so far this year in the United States on one national TV spot showcasing its tours and activities offerings, according to an estimate from TV analytics firm iSpot.tv, and on Monday TripAdvisor was set to launch two TV national television commercials highlighting its “things to do” in New York City and New Orleans.
In 2017, Expedia spent $8.3 million on a “Bucket List” TV spot, according to estimates from iSpot.tv, which only tracks U.S. national TV advertisements, but that commercial highlighting a tour of Angkor Wat in Cambodia is no longer running. Airbnb has tested some videos of its Experiences product, but hasn’t done much, if anything, on TV.
One of the TripAdvisor ads, Book Things to Do, focuses on mainstream tours and activities such as bike, boat and helicopter tours, all bookable on TripAdvisor with a smartphone.
The narrator of the ad — TripAdvisor’s so-called spokes-owl Little Wiser — says: “Want to take your next vacation to new heights? TripAdvisor now lets you book over 100,000 tours, attractions and experiences in destinations around the world like New York. From bike tours to bus tours to breathtaking adventures. TripAdvisor makes it easy to for you to find and book amazing things to do. So you can make your next trip monumental (the Statue of Liberty appears in the background). Read reviews. Check hotel prices. Book things to do. TripAdvisor.”
TripAdvisor CEO Steve Kaufer said recently that the company plans to spend more than $100 million on TV ads globally this year, and part of that move is branching out beyond emphasizing its hotel offerings and into things to do.
When it launched its Experiences product in 2017, Airbnb created a video touting jewelry-making in Brooklyn, hip-hop dance lessons in the Bronx, and learning about beekeeping in Staten Island, New York, but hasn’t done much with Experiences on TV.
In contrast, TripAdvisor’s commercial is all about very traditional tourism activities, including the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and biking in Central Park.
Kaufer hinted about the new tours and activities promotions on TV when he spoke about the company’s advertising strategy on an earnings call in August. Until then, Kaufer said, the TV campaign focused on educating consumers that TripAdvisor is not just for reading hotel reviews, but also for comparing lodging prices.
“But it’s likely going forward that we’re going to step into the fact that our entire value proposition is all around the everything you can do to have a fantastic trip,” Kaufer said. “Hotel is part of it. Restaurants is part of it. Experiences is part of it. And so I’d say it’s likely our advertising campaign, our TV campaign also expands to cover not just hotel price comparison but more.”
In addition to the TripAdvisor TV ad focusing on things to do in New York City, the company was expected to start airing an ad Monday highlighting a walking tour, a swamp boat “experience,” and a cooking class in New Orleans.
It is interesting that the name Viator, the tours and activities company that TripAdvisor acquired in 2014, isn’t mentioned in the ad as TripAdvisor emphasizes its namesake brand.
In announcing that it would start airing the New York City and New Orleans TV commercials Monday, TripAdvisor pointed out that it has the largest selection of online tours and activities, replete with a 24-hour cancellation policy.
Booking.com Touts Hotels, Homes and Whatever
Booking.com’s Watersports TV ad begins with a dad trying out what the narrator calls a “water jet thingie,” but emphasizes that consumers can book hotels, homes and “whatever” on Booking.com, and can get the best price. The ad has been running in the United States for most of 2018.
“At Booking.com we can’t guarantee you’ll be any good at that water jet thingie,” the narrator says. “But we can guarantee the best price on a hotel like this one, or any home, boat, treehouse, yurt, whatever. We guarantee the best price on all kinds of accommodations. Booking.com. Booking-dot-yeah.”
The tagline is: “Hotels, homes and everything in between.”
The “in-between” would include the water jet thingie, and other tours and activities that Booking.com is rolling out to users who have already booked a hotel. Interestingly, you still can’t go to Booking.com and find an experiences or things to do tab. So you can’t book a tour on Booking.com as a standalone thing. That may come in the future, but for now only users booking lodging in certain cities get an email asking them to tack on an experience.
Here’s an Airbnb Experiences video on Experiences that ran in 2017.